The Northern Alliance

Barrow of the Forgotten King, Part 1

In which cleverness ensues, but which is met with swift counter-cleverness

Prepped as they were by the previous e-mail, the Slayers chugged merrily through the first five encounters of the module, killing them some scavenging wolves, repelling some undead nasties lying in wait in the mausoleum, mopping up a pretty vicious slaughter of a grieving family, rescuing the lone survivor (who babbled incessantly about a “snake man”), getting annoyed by some red-herring clockwork menders (they really just want to keep the tomb clean; don’t bother with them, really); and finally breaching the Beholder Room.

The Beholder Room, which was apparently sealed with a permanent arcane lock, which no one in the party could possibly hope to budge. So after many frustrating minutes – ta da! – Gareth’s deity sort of opens the door for them, with some channeled divine enegery or something. Deus ex module.

Then there’s the riddle of the room; this is where I sort of got geeky. I didn’t care for the riddle as it was described. If you haven’t seen this module, the riddle involves comparing the artwork on the door of the room with tiles on the floor within. Maybe I’m just a noob DM (which I am), but to me, it seemed like the only way for players to solve this riddle was for me to (eventually) describe enough of the details of the room so that they comprehended that the patterns didn’t match and – eureka – they should move tiles around until the patterns did match. I didn’t get it. So…I sorta rewrote the riddle. I began with the main image of a beholder that had iconic symbols at the end of its eye stalks (a running man, a sleeping man, a man getting zapped by lighteneing, etc.), then I gave the players this:

Dare ye stare down B’holder’s eye? Dare ye bleed? Dare ye die?

Can ye live with flesh of stone? Or see that flesh melt off your bone?

Do these things ere you doth sleep And ye may enter kingly deep.

Fiendishly clever on paper, perhaps, but the long-praciticed gamesense in my fellow players proved more than a match. It went like this: “Oh, these tiles in the floor match the picture on the door. I bet each of them causes a spell to hit you if you step on it. Well, we better step on them in the order of the riddle so we can unlock the next room.” Zap zap zap, and three minutes later we’re on to the next room. So much for clever.

They proceed deeper in the dungeon, polishing off a few more undead beasties that seemed to be waiting for them, and we called it a night.



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